According to the Office of Immigration Statistics, Texas became the state with the fourth-highest percentage of naturalized citizens in 2007, with the number rising from 5.4 percent to 8 percent in one year. In addition, the Dallas-Fort Worth area had the highest increase of naturalized persons among all of the state's metro areas.
Nationally, about 12.5 percent of the entire population of the United States were born in another country — the highest percentage since 1920, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
A conference at UNT March 12 will bring together experts from around the nation to discuss the challenges that the U.S. is facing regarding immigration.
"Perspectives on Immigration: Strategies for the 21st Century" is scheduled from 8:15 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union. Admission is limited to 500 people and is free, but those who plan to attend must register at the conference's web site, www.unt.edu/immigrationconference.htm (click on "Register"). Tickets will be distributed to those who register. The deadline for registering is March 9 (Monday).
Sponsored by seven UNT offices, colleges and centers, the conference is part of UNT's inaugural One Book, One Community program, a yearlong program designed to engage the UNT community in a discussion and exploration of the history, politics and other implications of immigration, while critically analyzing a selected book for its literary and social value.
This academic year, UNT students, faculty and staff members are reading Barbara Kingsolver's, The Bean Trees, which focuses on community, economic injustice and cultural differences while relating the story of a young woman who befriends a family of Guatemalan immigrants and becomes the caregiver to an abandoned 3-year-old Cherokee child. Several other UNT departments, schools and colleges have scheduled events with themes of immigration and American identity.
James Meernik, UNT professor of political science and one of the conference's directors, says conference participants will learn about the complexity of immigration and challenge of setting immigration policy.
"It's not a black and white or simplistic issue," says Meernik, who is the interim associate dean for administrative affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences. "There are many important reasons why immigrants are so vital to this country, and if we are to develop an intelligent debate on immigration, we must respect others' points of view and respect the rights of those who are already here."
He noted that Texas, with its large numbers of immigrants from Mexico and Asian nations, is heavily dependent upon immigrant labor. Almost 20 percent of the state's workers are immigrants, higher than the national percentage, he says.
The morning panels for the conference will focus on the human and cultural effects of immigration, business and economics, while the subject of the conference's afternoon panel is immigration and education. Panelists will include researchers and faculty members from San Diego State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at El Paso and Western Michigan University, as well as a senior economist and policy advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The highlight of the conference is the evening debate among Lee Hamilton, who served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and on President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council; Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Law Foundation; Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.; and Rosa Rosales, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. The four will discuss the future of U.S. immigration policy.
As part of the conference, posters submitted by students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will be displayed on the UNT campus. In the posters, students will describe the journeys of their ancestors, and their own personal experiences, as immigrants.
For a complete conference schedule, go to www.unt.edu/immigrationconference.agenda.php. For more information, call 940-565-3037.
What: "Perspectives on Immigration: Strategies for the 21st Century" — A one-day conference at UNT that will bring experts on immigration together to provide a lively, balanced discussion of the challenges facing the U.S. regarding immigration.
When: 8:15 a.m.-8:30 p.m. March 12 (Thursday)
Where: Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union.
Cost: Free, but tickets are required. To register for a ticket, go to www.unt.edu/immigrationconference.htm. The deadline for registering is March 9 (Monday).
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service
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